October 8, 2017 – Mark 8:22 – 10:52
This unit begins with a blind man receiving his sight in a two-stage process (8:22-26) and ends with a blind man receiving his sight and following Jesus. These two miracles appear like bookends on Jesus teaching His disciples–and us–on what it means for us to see and follow Him as disciples. What lessons in discipleship do you discover in this section: about greatness? wealth? marriage? children? prayer and faith? suffering?
October 9 – Mark 11:1 – 13:37
In contrast to Jesus’ earlier instructions not to tell anyone who He was (Mark 1:34, 48; 5:43; 8:30; 9:9), His entry into Jerusalem is like a public pronouncement, “I am the Messiah.” With authority He cleanses the temple of those selling, buying, and changing money. What’s behind Jesus’ comment that they have made “my house of prayer a den of robbers”? How does the cursing of the fig tree illustrate what He’s saying? In Mark 11:27-12:37, note how Jesus demonstrates His authority the way He handles His opponents’ questions. Note too that they perceive the message of the parable of 12:1-12 pertains to them. It’s not a riddle! What do Jesus’ contrasting statements in 12:38-44 say about discipleship? Mark 13 is Jesus’ “apocalyptic discourse,” in response to the questions of Peter, James and John (13:3f). What’s the gist of his comments about the future? How does the concluding paragraph (13:32-27) prepare us for the unknown hour of Christ’s return?
October 10 – Mark 14:1-16:20
As you read this very sobering record of Jesus last hours with His disciples, note especially the words He speaks–when He is anointed in Bethany; at the Passover meal with His disciples; in His prayers in Gethsemane; before the chief priests, elders and scribes; with Pilate; and then from the cross. Note how strangely silent He is under attack. What does He accomplish by not giving in to the taunts against Him, especially in light of the centurion’s affirmation (15:39) and the testimony of the resurrection? What great encouragement is provided by the angel’s announcement (16:16-7)? Does it surprise you the way the Gospel ends (16:8)? [16:9-20 is the “longer ending” not present in the earliest manuscripts, but still a reliable witness to Jesus’ resurrection.]
October 11 – Romans 1:1 – 3:20
In the introductory portion of the letter, note how Paul expands on his identity by referring himself and his apostleship to Jesus Christ and indicates his desire to encourage the Romans in their faith and be himself encouraged by theirs. Romans 1:16-17 presents the theme he is going to unfold in this letter as he seeks to enlist their support in his plans to go to Spain (15:23-24, 28). In Part One of this basic presentation of the Gospel, he leads us to see that all people have sinned and do not measure up to God’s standards, first the Gentiles (1:18-32) and then the Jews [religious people] (2:1 – 3:9) and finally summarized in 3:9-20. As you read this section, ask yourself, “Does this include me? Have I been righteous in the sight of God?”
October 12 – Romans 3:21 – 5:21
Please note how Paul begins this section–with a “but now.” What follows sharply contrasts with the preceding. In 1:18 – 3:20 Paul showed how the Law judges and condemns us all. Here God shows His righteousness as a gift in Jesus Christ, to be received by faith (3:21-31). Abraham, the father of Israel illustrates this truth. It applies to us as well (4:1-25). What blessings does Paul say come to us who claim God’s righteousness by faith (5:1-11)? Rom. 5:12-21 fortifies how God has revealed His righteousness–and how we receive it–by contrasting the first and second Adams. In the contrast between the two, which is greater?
October 13 – Romans 6:1 – 8:39
Have you noticed how in Romans 3 – 5, sin is presented as a personal force that influences us tremendously? Here in Romans 6, Paul causes us to see that we have been freed from sin’s power in our baptisms–so live a new life! Use your bodies as “instruments of righteousness!” In chapter 7, we are freed from the law to serve God even if our sinful nature asserts itself. Chapter 8 brings another “freedom”–from death by the new life we have received from the Spirit. How can these accents help you live confidently in a world influenced by sin and its attendant results of suffering and death?
October 14 – Romans 9:1 – 11:36
This is a most challenging section as Paul wrestles with the rejection by many of his Jewish brothers and sisters of the culmination of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Note how Paul insists that God’s Word has not failed. Israel’s rejection of that Word has led to it going to the Gentiles. Paul’s hope is that somehow he might so “magnify his ministry” that his own people will get jealous and may be led to confess Jesus as their Lord too and thus be “re-grafted” into their own tree. The mystery of it all leads Paul to break out in a song of praise to God for His wisdom (11:33-36).